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Room 237

In this film essay, five "experts" explain what Kubrick's The Shining was really about

Beyond the book: Room 237 director Rodney Ascher
Beyond the book: Room 237 director Rodney Ascher

Think Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film The Shining is (A) a horror film, (B) an adaptation of a Stephen King novel, (C) boring or (D) all of the above? Well, according to the five Shining-ologists of Rodney Ascher's Room 237, you'd be wrong on all counts and just not thinking hard enough.

In Ascher's essay, four men and one woman posit their theories of what Kubrick was really saying. The arguments are buttressed with clips from The Shining, as well as other Kubrick films and an assortment of stock footage. 

No expert ever appears on film, and without identification, it's often hard to tell who is talking. But the theories are often so loopy, poorly explained or contradictory that combining them in a stream-of-conscious jumble makes some crazy sense. Why can't The Shining be about the Nazis and the moon landing? Or, "an extremely disturbing story ... of haunted phantoms and demons who are sexually attracted to humans and are feeding on them." Or American Indians. The number 7. The number 42. Calumet baking powder. Subliminal Seduction.

It's entertaining in an oddball way, like sitting next to an amusing kook at the bar. Any film is open to a variety of interpretations, and thus, these are neither right nor wrong. On one level, it's just fascinating that The Shining inspires so much thought. And join the fun: After all, says one expert, "There must be a lot of stuff in [the film] that nobody has seen yet."

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